For The Square Dance Caller: Sparkle Your Entertainment!

How to Entertain At Your Square Dance!

As a square dance caller, stepping up on the stage and putting on some great music and calling is one of the most fulfilling feelings in the world. I fully realize this after having taken quite a long “vacation” from the activity. I always get butterflies just before I get up to call, then I feel a rush of highly energized excitement when I actually am calling, and then I delight in having appreciative dancers at the end of the night’s dancing thanking me for the great calling.

So what is it that makes for a great night of calling? Square dance calling is unlike any other form of entertainment, it definitely is one of the more unique music and dance forms in the world, steeped in a rich historical heritage, and as it evolves it continues to progress along with the modern world. This is true of both traditional and modern square dance.

To be a great square dance entertainer, even for someone with loads and loads of talent, there is a required set of things that need to be in place for that person to be great. Extreme talent is one of the foremost integers in the formula for stardom, but having a good program in place and lots of practice on that program have to be present in a practice regimen that the artist must commit to regularly and diligently.

Apart from having a great varied selection of music ready to go and preparing a set program of choreography for the night, there are qualities that you must perfect and hone to be a great square dance caller. Or to be considered the best.

Stage Presence, Confidence and Maintaining Composure

Composure is the state or feeling of being calm and in control of oneself. Self control and confidence is absolutely necessary to be a top caller. Ever hear the phrase “lose your composure?” This is the last thing you want to have happen when you are calling a dance. Being prepared will help you achieve this. If your confidence is present in your calling, then you will be believable and engaging. If you are nervous and your voice lacks presence and projection then you will not have the “get up and go” that you need to instill into the dancers. Remember the dancers came to do two things: socialize and enjoy being entertained by YOU! Make sure that you don’t appear nervous. uncertain or unprepared. Square dancers are not that much different than other people who are being entertained. They do not have a lot of patience and they are your hardest critic. Put yourself in their dancing shoes and remember they are judgmental. They are expecting to have a great time. So make sure that you make that happen. Which brings us to the other important element that is essential in calling a great dance.

Display Enthusiasm and Energy

When entertaining, energy comes from two sources. First, how well you are mentally prepared to call? Second, how prepared physically are you to call? Have your program down. Spend some time thinking about what you want to say between the music breaks of the singing calls and the patter portions of the tips that you call. Depend on using humor and smile alot. Your energy and enthusiam will be contagious if you project that in the first place. Make sure that you have enough nourishment before you go to the dance so that you have plenty of physical energy to project your voice and sing the singing calls the best that you can. Practicing is a way of training for the dance. Your voice will hold up better if you are used to calling and using your voice for an extended amount of time. Along with energy you need an enthusiastic way of connecting with your audience. You can accomplish this by using humor and keeping everything as positive as you possibly can. Rehearse this in your practice if you need to. Start from scratch if you have to. Work on being funny and engaging. Then you will entertain the group that you call for. Remember if you do not exude enthusiasm and energy, it will show.

 

Commit to Improve

By committing to developing your square dance calling, you are expanding your talents and improving your ability to entertain. Be creative in what you choose to call throughout the evening’s program and be ready to make changes. The best way to do this is practice! Keep in mind that practicing is not just doing the same things over and over again! Change the choreography in your practice sessions. Imagine that the dancers cannot dance “Spin Chain Thru” or you are approached by a dancer to teach or give a review on Tag the Line.” Be ready with choreography and some singing call figures that you are comfortable with. This will make you ready to adapt to change in what you are asked to do in terms of choreography and you will in turn be able to do this with energy, enthusiasm and you will not lose your composure. Besides, this will allow you to be more creative and expand the boundaries of your craft.

In order to improve you have to push yourself when you practice, so that when you are being the entertaining caller you strive to be, you can.  Collaborate with other square dance callers from time to time. Everyone will benefit from learning to be funnier, more creative, and overall, better at calling.

To conclude on getting the sparkle: it takes a lot of practice on your part, review what you call at the dances and be prepared.

Give the dancers time to applaud when the music ends. This is an opportunity for the dance floor to both thank you, the square dance caller, and congratulate themselves and the rest of the square for a job well done. Allow the night to sparkle upon the dancers. They will thank you for it!

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

 
Mission Statement: The purpose of this post is to create a greater visibility of the square dance activity for future dance population growth on a national and local level. The information provided here serves as a source for square dance caller education training and perspectives on dance. Future articles will be developed to improve the programs of square dancing and how those learning to square dance call can help contribute to the preservation of both modern western square dancing and traditional square dancing and to aid in the growth of the square dance activity.

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Square Dance Caller: Engage With Dynamic Singing Call Figures

The one dynamic that you can change as a modern western square dance caller in your dance program outside of the musical selections for the evening is using different choreographic sequences that will ENTERTAIN the dancers at the event you are calling. Anticipation on the dance floor is not a good thing, however, calling dance moves that lose the floor and cause the squares to break down is not good, either. Still, eliminating anticipation and making what you call interesting is what will win heaps of appreciation from all present that night. As a square dance caller it is necessary and crucial to allow the dancers to succeed through different choreographic combinations that they do not know what to expect a great amount of the time, and this is one of the best ways to ensure that you are calling a great square dance !

If you are prepared, and prepared in the right manner, you will have a ton of choreography for the dance that is not too difficult and you will implement it in a way that is interesting and keeps everyone smiling!

That being said, here is a duo of Mainstream singing call figures that you can use that are not the “usual” thing. And they are pretty basic in dancing level incorporating Walk and Dodge, Single Hinge and Recycle.

Enjoy!

CALLING TIP! Spend some time creating directional commands and practicing the delivery of those commands to aid the dancers through more involved choreography so that they will have more success and enjoyment!

Heads (Sides) Square Thru 4 Sides Rollaway
Swing Thru
Boys Run Right
Pass the Ocean
Recycle
Square Thru Three Hands
Trade By
Swing Corner and Promenade Home

Heads (Sides) Box the Gnat
Slide Thru
Slide Thru again
Pass the Ocean
Swing Thru
Single Hinge
Girls Walk – Boys Dodge
U-Turn Back
Square Thru Three Hands
Swing Corner & Promenade Home

 

Modern Western and Traditional square dancing at the very basic level can intermingle harmoniously with your corporate function,  barbeque , wedding, or church or community event. Shaun Werkele is a square dance caller who entertains in all levels of square dancing from the very basic Mainstream calls on through the Challenge (C-1) dance level. Shaun tours locally in Colorado and to nearby areas outside of the Colorado region such as Nebraska, Kansas, Utah, and Oklahoma to call for your group.

Make square dancing a major part of your event or festival plans and see how easy and fun a square dance party can be!

303-250-4735

 

 

 

Mission Statement: The purpose of this post is to create a greater visibility of the square dance activity for future dance population growth on a national and local level. The information provided here serves as a source for square dance caller education training and perspectives on dance. Future articles will be developed to improve the programs of square dancing and how those learning to square dance call can help contribute to the preservation of both modern western square dancing and traditional square dancing and to aid in the growth of the square dance activity.

Des Moines 65th National Square Dance Convention 2016 Information

65th National Square Dance Convention June 22-26, 2016 Des Moines, Iowa “Do The Iowa Scene in 2016.”

65th National Square Dance Convention Wells Fargo Arena and Des Moines Convention Center
The Iowa Events Center and Wells Fargo Arena  is located at 233 Center St, Des Moines, Iowa, The Wells Fargo Arena is adjoined to the rest of the Iowa Events Center and is very close to Downtown Des Moines through the city’s extensive Skywalk  system, providing quick and easy access. This is a first class facility with a restaurant overlooking views of the Iowa State Capital and the nearby Des Moines River.

Additionally, there are many great places to dine in the downtown area and you can find more information on Des Moines Dining on this link.

The Des Moines Skywalk and Parking Map has more information about available parking in the vicinity around the Wells Fargo Arena and the downtown area. Parking at the Iowa Events Center is located north of Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center. Iowa Events Center lots are the closest and most convenient, and there is good access to I-235 and other major roadways from there. Street metered parking is available in the nearby downtown area. Rates vary according to different time limits and vicinity parking restrictions apply during certain times. City and private parking garages are all near the center and rates will vary.

For information about public transportation system go to http://www.ridedart.com/

For general entrance into this national square dance event, please use the main entry facing Center Street. Additionally, there are other entries at Third, Fifth, and Crocker Street. ADA Accessible parking is available at the Iowa Events Center by entering the lot south of Crocker Street, next to Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center at Veterans Memorial Auditorium. The elevator for ADA and other transport is also located at the nearby entrance. The flooring in the halls will be the removable hardwood that can be reused at other National Square Dance Conventions.

Housing is available at the downtown hotels of Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn, and Residence Inn. All outlying hotels have rooms available, however some are requiring a 4 day stay on reservations. Early arrivals, before Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016, need to book for those nights in advance.

Hotel accommodations for the square dance caller at the National Square Dance Convention are extremely booked. The Quality Inn is currently full. The overflow for Callers/Cuers is being directed to the Holiday Inn Downtown where there are still rooms available.

The Marriott, which is the convention “HQ” housing host, is blocked out at this time and might re-open to interested dancers at a later time. The 65th Square Dance Convention staff personnel and upcoming convention committee members can send in a long form to the National Committee indicating the year of your convention and General Chairman to reserve a room. Entertainers that wish to stay at the Marriott should fill out the long form and get it to the Registration Chairman.

If you are flying into the convention, the Des Moines International Airport is three miles away, southwest of the metro area. To drive to the Iowa Events Center, go south on Cowles Dr toward Fleur Drive. Turn left onto Fluer Drive towards downtown Des Moines. Turn right onto west Martin Luther King Jr Parkway. Then go a mile and a half and turn left onto SW 2nd St. Turn left onto Center Street. Proceed to Crocker Street. Turn right onto Crocker Street. Turn Left onto 5th Avenue and enter the Iowa Events Center parking lot on your right.

Greater Des Moines Visitors Bureau is a great resource for more information about available restaurants and dining in the downtown area of the largest city in the “Hawkeye State”

The flooring in the halls will be the removable hardwood that can be reused at other National Square Dance Conventions. There will be lots of great square dancing and, of course, great square dance calling at this year’s “national.”

There are many local tourist attractions in Des Moines. And of course there is the rolling hills of southern Iowa that provides fun diversion for outdoors enthusiasts like top-notch camping, fishing, hunting, boating, and guided tours available for the Iowa State Fish Hatchery and Honey Creek Resort.

Tour the award-winning Des Moines Art Center. Recognized nationally and internationally as a world-class museum in the heart of the Midwest, the Art Center holds an impressive collection primarily representing artists who have left their historic artistic heritage to the public. Try visiting Hoyt Sherman Place. Built in 1877, the facility is the first public art gallery in Des Moines which serves as a home for a distinctive collection of classic artwork representing the past two hundred years.

With the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden you can view 15,000 exotic plants in their interactive display greenhouse. Dining is available  at the Trellis Café inside.

Consider touring the historic Salisbury House, a grand 42-room mansion constructed in the 1920s. This museum contains lots of antique furnishings, books, and unique art, much from other parts of the world.

Shopping is aplenty at the Historic Valley Junction. Tons of antique shops, specialty stores, restaurants, clothing boutiques, and more than 120 retail businesses highlight this renovated railroad district. Spend a little time in the downtown area and experience the Historic East Village, loaded with restaurants, local events and enjoyable modern shopping.

For shows, try checking out the Broadway show at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines. Where great Broadway shows such as “Riverdance,” “Wicked” and “Cabaret” have all honored the stage. Or watch a showcased local show at the Des Moines Community Playhouse. The entertainment facility provides at least a dozen new musicals, comedies, dramas and family shows annually.

Another great attraction is the impressive and gigantic John & Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. This world recognized art display is located in the heart of Downtown Des Moines.

This great annual square dance event will be loaded with energetic fun, education for both callers and dancers, entertainment for all, and, of course, dancing!

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

 

Original Mainstream Singing Call Figures For Square Dance Callers

Learning to square dance call is like learning a foreign language. You can read every book on grammar and pronunciation and you still may not be able to speak the language until you spend time speaking with others in the real world. The very things that make square dance calling what it is – its social uniqueness combined with a background in heritage and history –  are the most difficult things to convey on paper.

Once you learn the language of square dance calling by listening, practicing and studying, you can start to feel more comfortable calling at dances that you are scheduled for. And this will be apparent on a conscious level for all of the dancers present at your dances.

Here are a couple of great simple modern western square dance singing call choreography figures using very standard positioning that makes for a nice change and they are a little different. The first break uses a “Lead Left” at the end which adds a little twist. The second combination has a “Boys Circulate Girls Trade” from a Two-faced Line. This is the hardest part of the second sequence and this kind of thing is not used enough in singing call figures when square dance calling.  Not super difficult but different and interesting. And this approach to calling will make the dancers stronger in their abilities.

Make it your responsibility to use all calls and figures in your Mainstream Basic programs when you call the dance. It is your responsibility to call as many of the calls as you can so that the dancers are proficient and the dance is interesting. I advise that you call the sequences, or at least the gist of the ideas in your patter portion of your tip, before you use the figures below to give the dancers practice :

CALLING TIP!
Square dance calling requires a deep dedication in order to help continue to take the activity as a whole to the next step in it’s evolution. Always treat the dancers with the highest respect and everything else will be easier at the square dance!

Heads (Sides) Promenade Halfway
Lead Right
Veer Left
Couples Trade
Ferris Wheel
Centers Star Thru
Back Away then Lead Left
Swing Corner & Promenade

Or try this one:

Heads (Sides) Touch a Quarter
Walk & Dodge
Right and Left Thru
Veer Left
Boys Circulate Girls Trade
Wheel & Deal
Star Thru  Slide Thru
Swing Corner & Promenade

As always, feel free to call if you have any questions!

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

 

 

 

Mission Statement: The purpose of this post is to create a greater visibility of the square dance activity for future dance population growth on a national and local level. The information provided here serves as a source for square dance caller training, education and perspectives on dance. Future articles will be developed to improve the programs of square dancing and how those learning to square dance call can help contribute to the preservation of both modern western square dancing and traditional square dancing and to aid in the growth of the square dance activity.

Square Dance Callers: Using Your Microphone Effectively

When a square dance caller is calling a dance, there are an awful lot of things to remember to do while they are calling. The best advice given is to work out many of the difficulties such that they are not something that you would need to focus on while trying to think about what choreography to use, what lyrics of the songs to sing and the performance of those songs. Training your voice and practicing so that you sound as good as possible is similar to learning to play an instrument. Developing your range and learning to control your voice’s tone and learning breath control are all components of learning your vocal instrument, your singing voice and your vocal performance. But at the end of the day, these efforts to develop good vocal technique can be eclipsed by poor microphone technique. Both the traditional and modern square dance caller need to learn how to use a microphone most effectively or they will lose out on sounding the best that they can.

First, learn to hold the mic properly. Do not hold the microphone at a vertical up-and-down just below the lips. By doing this, you will lose tons of tonal quality from your voice by singing over the top of the microphone head, or sometimes called a grill, and it will sound thin. By holding the mic at an angle of approximately 45 degrees from the floor toward your mouth, you will capture all of the tonal quality that comes from your mouth and nose. This is by far the most important thing you can do to improve your vocal sound. Always call and sing into the top of the grill and keep the mic angled for optimal vocal tone.

Make sure that you hold your microphone by the shaft and not up by the grill. This will create feedback from the speakers and you will lose tonal quality. Additionally, you will create extraneous noises with your fingers that will carry through the speakers out to the dance floor. Try recording this sometime and you will hear a great difference between where you hold your hand on the shaft of the microphone. Avoid this bad habit as well as letting your mic hand drop to an up-and-down vertical position when you are calling. Occasionally practice in front of a mirror so that you will be able to see how well you hold the angle of the mic.

Use a specialized diction that emphasizes the consonants but at the same time brings them out to the same level of importance as the vowel sounds in your calls. Diction requires clarity, but if you are too articulate, it will sound unnatural and you will actually be harder to understand. Another thing, if you hold the microphone too close to your mouth this is emphasized even more and the undesired result will be what is referred to as “popping.”

Popping is distracting and you can also pass on hissing sounds from your voice when it is too close to the mic. The ideal distance you want to hold the microphone from your mouth is somewhere between a half inch and an inch away. Do not let the microphone touch your lips, this too, will lead to dancers having trouble understanding your square dance calls because the lips are being blocked from moving freely. And since you are holding the microphone too close to your mouth, you will not get the top quality tone from your mic.

Depending upon the sensitivity of your microphone, if you vary your volume when you are singing, you want to work on using the “proximity effect” when you are performing. This is accomplished by pulling the mic slightly farther away and then closer again when you decrease your singing volume. Be careful not to pull away the microphone too far or too fast, the dancers want to understand what you are saying and you will need to move the mic closer as soon as you drop your vocal volume. This takes a lot of practice to be effective at, but it is worth it once you master this technique.

Particular styles and brands of microphones will pick up the tonal qualities of your voice best, so spend some time shopping for a suitable mic that enhances your vocal range and the sound of your voice.
No two microphone brands or styles are identical, and you need to find one that suits your own unique voice. If your voice is low, you need to find a microphone that adds high end , upper middle tones, and is not too boomy on the bottom end. If your voice is on the high end, then you need a microphone that has upper presence in line with a lower mid range and low end boost.

Additionally, experiment with the tone controls on your amplifier so that you can dial in more or less tone when you need to adjust it. More tone will allow your voice to cut through a more muddy and acoustically challenged hall, and when you have a hall where there is a lot of echo from the walls, then you will want to focus on finding the perfect blend between a nice balanced sound and a clear and bright sound, too.

Finally, think of the microphone as part of your voice and an extension of it. And think of the amplifier pushing out to the speakers as an extension of your voice, a louder and more beautiful sounding “you.” Don’t overdrive your voice, but rather, think of the microphone as receiving, projecting and amplifying your voice!

As always, feel free to call me at any time if you have a square dance calling question!

Shaun Werkele

303-250-4735

 

 

Mission Statement: The purpose of this post is to create a greater visibility of the square dance activity for future dance population growth on a national and local level. The information provided here serves as a source for square dance caller education, training, and perspectives on dance. Future articles will be developed to improve the programs of square dancing and how those learning to square dance call can help contribute to the preservation of both modern western square dancing and traditional square dancing and to aid in the growth of the square dance activity.